Friday, January 25, 2008

Relationship not Religion - Freedom not Conformity

A fellow brother sent me this today, without even realizing what my day started like. Isn't God cool like that? This was the part that really hit my heart the most. It was written by Wayne Jacobsen back in 1997.

I'm heading to the orphanage in the morning so enjoy this good word and I'll let you all know how the kids are doing when I get back. Peace!

Relationship not Religion

"Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent."
These are the words Jesus prayed in the Garden, shortly before his crucifixion. He didn't die to give birth to another religion, but engage people in a relationship with him and his Father.

It has always bothered me that institutional Christianity doesn't look any different to the world than any of the other religions. We who allegedly walk with the living God have the same traditions, obligations, shrines, sacrifices and ceremonies that they have. Oh, we call them by different names and tell them we are different. But it certainly doesn't look that way to outsiders.

Christianity is not another religion. It is not a code of ethics. It is not participation in ceremonies or signing some creed. Christianity is a relationship to the Risen Christ, his Father and the Holy Spirit. It is intended to be a relationship more real, more loving, more transforming than any other we've ever known in this life.

He wants to be at our side when we waken in the morning and walk with us through every step of our day. He wants to be the shoulder we cry on when we hurt, the resource we count on every moment, and the ever-present guide that teaches us how to walk away from the bondage of self and embrace life as Father knows it to be. Then we can be like him in the world, loving others as we have been loved.

It is called relational Christianity, because it is only caught up in loving him and loving others. Period. That's all he asked us to do, and it is what religion has most failed at over 2,000 years. We are committed to helping people discover the depth of that relationship in him and then discover healthy ways believers can relate together without contempt, manipulation, expectation and the arrogance of setting themselves above others. That's not only the way we'll treat other believers, but unbelievers around us as well.

Freedom not Conformity

That kind of relationship however doesn't grow where people are burdened down with religious obligations and duties. "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery."

Paul encouraged the church at Galatia to that freedom, even though he warned them not to use it as an excuse to run off and appease the flesh. But even when people did, he didn't revoke the freedom of those who were growing to know Father. His letters defined that freedom even as they warned that false leaders would come to take that freedom away. He knew believers would only grow in an environment of freedom.

To live in the love of an awesome Father, free to respond to him as he leads you, even if that means you make mistakes now and then.

To walk without guilt or condemnation. Recognize that transformation is a life-long process that Jesus works in us by our security in his love, not something we do for him out of fear.

To be real. To feel what you feel; to ask what you need to ask, to be wrong where you are wrong, and to extend that same freedom to others.

To be liberated from accountability to human leaders who seek to take the place of Jesus in the church by telling others what they think he would have them do.

To love other brothers and sisters freely, serving them the way Jesus leads you and not trying to conform to their expectations of what a 'good Christian' should do for them.

To live free of bitterness and hurt, even where religious institutions (and those who run them) have failed you. We've all got plenty wrong with us, so there can be no end to the generosity we can extend others in their weakness.

Those who do not understand this freedom, have lost touch with the head and deny the power of the cross. When that happens people end up lording over others, seeking to conform them to their standard of Christian behavior. Enduring transformation, however, can never come that way. It can only spring from within as the fruit of our friendship with Jesus.


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